Death is always tragic.
The person who dies is someone's wife or husband, mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter, girlfriend or boyfriend, cousin or friend.
Many times death is anticipated. Oftentimes it is a blessing.
But no matter what the circumstance, death leaves a permanent void in the lives of those still living.
As a journalist for the past 20 years, I've written a lot about death, whether it be obituaries for people I never knew or unexpected tragedies like car accidents or fires. While I've felt sympathy for victims and their families, none has touched me like the death of Tyler Magnan last weekend.
That's because Tyler isn't just a name of someone who died a tragic death. He's not just someone whose death affected people I don't know.
Tyler was a friend. A really, really good friend. We've lived next door to him and his family in our neighborhood north of Brainerd for 14 years. We watched him grow up. We went on vacations with him.
Tyler died Sunday, Dec. 10, after the four-wheeler he was riding went through the ice on Round Lake at 11:30 a.m. that day. He didn't know how to swim. We think he panicked. The Crow Wing County Dive Team recovered his body about 50 minutes later. He was airlifted to St. Joseph's Medical Center, but couldn't be resuscitated.
A friend, Tyler Lightner, also went through the ice on his four-wheeler. The two were riding side by side. Thankfully, "Little Tyler," as he's known, even though he's 16 now, got out of the water safely.
Tyler Magnan was only 21. He was one of my husband's best friends. He was one of my stepson's best friends. He was the son of our very good friends, Tim and Monique. His sister, Kayla, has always been our No. 1 baby sitter. Sometimes Tyler would pitch in and help if Kayla wasn't available. He often could be found shooting baskets in our driveway with my daughters. Just because he wanted to.
When we bought our house in the fall of 1992, I noticed a swing set in the neighbor's yard. Maybe they have someone my stepson's age, I remember thinking.
Sure enough, Tyler and Brad were the same age. Both were in first grade when they became friends, and they maintained that friendship the past 14 years. They grew up fishing and hunting with their dads, working together at S&W Bait for a few summers, bicycling to work and to fishing spots before they were old enough to drive, camping out together in a tent in our back yards, taking an annual father/son summer fishing trip to Rainy Lake.
What people think of most when talking about Tyler is his love for fishing. He lived to fish. Whether it was fishing by boat in the summer or on the ice in the winter, fishing was Tyler's passion. And he made it other people's passion as well. He taught his girlfriend, Beth, how to fish and hunt. He taught her how to love both the sports he so enjoyed.
As Beth paged through a scrapbook Monday night and talked about a recent camping trip, she broke down and said it was supposed to have been an annual trip. This shouldn't have happened, she said.
She's so right.
Tyler died too young. Parents aren't supposed to bury their children. His mom said everything happens for a reason, and she's just waiting to figure out the reason behind Tyler's death. Their grief is so real and so raw. It's so heartbreaking.
Tragedies shouldn't happen to anyone, and especially to good people. That might sound nave, but I'm sure it's how many people feel.
Tyler was fishing on Round Lake with friends and family last weekend. They aren't careless, reckless people. They're people who have grown up fishing on lakes. They're people who used bad judgment in trusting the ice. They're people who were overanxious to do what they love to do together.
They weren't the only ones on the lake. Fish houses are scattered in all different areas of the lake.
Tyler's mom said not many people find their passion in life, and with Tyler it was clear from such an early age. He'd been fishing since he was old enough to hold a rod.
He shared that love of fishing with others in several ways. The Magnans aren't big fish eaters, so whatever Tyler caught, he shared with others. And he caught a lot of fish. He had an uncanny ability to always find fish.
He also volunteered at Camp Confidence, and was a fishing guide for the Pequot Lakes High School Fishing Club's fishing trip. The one thing he enjoyed as much as fishing was sharing his love for the sport with others.
Again, death is always tragic because of the people it affects. This death just happened to hit me, and hard. I just keep waiting for Tyler to walk in our front door and in the Owatonna drawl he picked up from my husband, say, "Whatcha doin'?"
Life will never be the same without you, Tyler. We miss you so much.
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